Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots enter the off-season with a number of internal moves to make in free agency to make to get their salary cap in order before they can begin spending on free agents when the 2015 NFL season starts on March 10. While the majority of the money is tied-up in cornerback Darrelle Revis and his “placeholder” $25 million cap charge in 2015 (salary data from OvertheCap.com), once he is extended or released the team should be able to position themselves to be active in free agency.
The NFL Draft follows in May, but by then the Patriots will be well into the roster building. Last season New England hit a home run in free agency bringing in wide receiver Brandon LaFell (74 receptions for 953 yards and 7 touchdowns), re-signing wide receiver Julian Edelman (92 receptions for 972 yards and 4 touchdowns), and re-signing valuable blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and guard/center Ryan Wendell on offense. On defense Revis was the the crown jewel but cornerback Brandon Browner and safety Patrick Chung brought hard-hitting swagger to the defense.
This season the Patriots will need another strong offseason to keep the team in contention to defend their 2014 Super Bowl championship. Looking at free agency needs, this series will kick-off by looking at the offense and specifically the quarterback position.
Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell (41) reacts in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady is coming off a season at age 37 that saw him take a step forward leading the team to 12 regular season wins and a dramatic Super Bowl 49 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Brady shook off a rough start to the season and passed for over 4,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season while throwing 33 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions in the regular season (stats from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted). With increased mobility, Brady had a strong statistical season while displaying high-level leadership ability.
Behind Brady the Patriots have 2014 second-round draft pick Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo shined in training camp and gave the Patriots the flexibility to deal Ryan Mallett. Garoppolo completed 46 of 79 passes (58% completion) for 618 yards and 5 touchdowns with just one interception and 99.0% QB Rating during the preseason (from Patriots.com). The rookie flashed a strong arm, quick decision making, and mobility as he gave the coaching staff confidence in the backup quarterback position.
Need (Low, Mid, High): Low
Free Agent Activity:
Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots are unlikely to bring in a veteran back-up quarterback. Since 2005 (Doug Flutie) and 2006 (Vinnie Testaverde) the Patriots have been comfortable having young back-ups such as Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez, Brian Hoyer, Kevin O’Connell, and Ryan Mallett. If New England brings in a veteran it is likely just for training camp competition. The Patriots have not carried more than two quarterbacks for a while and with Garoppolo established as the back-up and Brady signed for three more seasons there is little need to add a quarterback to take up a valuable roster spot in 2015.
After surprisingly investing a high draft pick in Garoppolo last year, the Patriots may still not be done looking for Brady’s eventual successor. However, this draft class is not as deep as in 2014 which saw Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater go in the first round and Derek Carr and Garoppolo taken in the second round. The later rounds saw value as well as prospects Logan Thomas, Tom Savage, and Zach Mettenberger flashed potential. The 2015 draft features Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston and then a lot of question marks. Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, Sean Mannion, Bryan Bennett, Garrett Grayson, and Rakeem Cato are not likely to leapfrog Garoppolo and take over as Brady’s successor. The odds of New England drafting a quarterback in 2015 is slim.